Walt Staton graduated from the University of Arizona, a noted party school, in 2004, and joined the “No More Deaths” Project. Walt is a humanitarian who does not want to see any more undocumented immigrants die while crossing into the United States through the desolate border area of Arizona. He’s also been a web designer and soup kitchen volunteer.
Walt is a noble young American who seeks more out of life than wealth or beer. He is now enrolling in the Claremont School of Theology.
He is also a federal misdemeanant.
His crime: littering the border area with plastic bottles.
His act: He dropped off 8 jugs, 8 jugs of manna containing water along the well beaten path into America, actually 8 of your standard one gallon bottles.
His goal: No more deaths through dehydration.
His accusers: Not the INS or ICE, but United States Fish and Wildlife Service officers, who claim that these plastic jugs endanger wildlife in this desolate desert.
The real crime: The question is not what to do with undocumented immigrants, but do we want human beings to die a miserable death in the desert? Are we placing Gila Monsters, Roadrunners, mule deer, the furtive Mexican wolf, and perhaps jaguars and pumas above humans?
Litter is ubiquitous in America – in the cities and towns, along the highways and byways, beaches and trails, and in the national parks and forests. Plastic litter is particularly pernicious with a long life. Any doubts can easily be resolved by joining a beach cleanup on Earth Day.
However, unopened water containers intended for human consumption to save lives are not “litter.”
They are not being thrown away, discarded, or surreptitiously dumped. Toxics aren’t being released from a petcock valve by a midnight dumper in a truck. Rotting garbage and carrion are not tossed out for scavengers to devour, although the scavengers of the desert would feast on human remains. These jugs are not the detritus of civilization.
The U.S Attorneys Office is rumored to have spent $50,000 prosecuting Staton and sought a $5,000 fine from the soup kitchen volunteer and 5 years probation. The prosecutors argued that the activist Walt was fighting US immigration policy and helping drug smugglers and/or dangerous felons, who presumably are packing water in their pickup trucks. The judge sentenced Walt to one year unsupervised probation, 300 hours of community service picking up trash (how juicy and ironic) but not at the border, and banned him from the 7 mile wide refuge which bestrides the border. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is obviously not a refuge for humans.
If only Walt could sing! We could have a modern version of Alice’s Restaurant where Arlo Guthrie was arrested, yes arrested, for dumping ½ tons of trash from a red VW Microbus down a gully already containing trash because the town dump was closed on Thanksgiving. We all learnt who Officer Obie of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts Police was.
Walt is becoming a martyr to the dismay of federal officials. More and more members of No More Deaths are taking his place on the water line, waiting to receive their federal citations. Even if Walt Staton and his colleagues at No More Deaths were seeking a confrontation with the U.S. government, the officials should have looked the other way.
Walt stated: “I wanted to make a point that humanitarianism is not a crime, and water’s not littering.”
The government will not win this war of words.
Not receiving citations are the undocumented immigrants, who each contribute about 5-8 pounds of trash to the border area.
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant, but not in the Sonoran Desert.